National variances in the Natural Gas Sector in Western Europe

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Country differences in the household penetration of natural gas are due to a combination of factors. The most fundamental of these relate to the abundance of indigenous supplies of natural gas, the geographical size of the country, eh extent of the piped network, and the length of time for which natural gas has had a share in the national energy market.

Labelling countries according to the status of gas distribution is a difficult procedure, and categories such as ‘mature’ and ‘developing’ require further explanation. In one country gas may have low penetration but for various reasons it may be regarded as a mature market, whereas in another country it may have high penetration but be capable of expansion and so label developing or immature. For example, while the French gas market may be said to be ‘mature’, this is more due to the fact that the natural gas market has existed for a long time in France, rather than that it has expanded to its full potential. Indeed, it is likely that a great deal of development (both in terms of infrastructure, and the use of natural gas in households) will take place in the future. A high level of national reliance on nuclear power generation may go some way towards explaining the lower penetration of natural gas in the French domestic sector.

Similarly in Germany, which accounts for around 20% of the total natural gas consumed by households in the EU, and 16% of domestic consumers in the wider Europe, much distribution network development is likely to take place in the future, as at present only around 46% of households are connected. In the UK and the Netherlands, where the domestic natural gas market has also been established for several decades, because of their natural resources it is at or approaching saturation. In these two countries, the main developments are likely to involve fuel-switching and/or increased demand by individual households, and only a small increase in the proportion of households connected.

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What you can expect to study with GEC

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The Global Energy Certification curriculum covers many topics and sectors of the energy industry. Below is a sample of what you can expect to study.

The major T&D suppliers are following the broad industrial trend of aiming to increase their business by adding value to products by combining them in systems and offering higher technology services and capabilities. They have mostly published targets to increase the proportion of their business including service as well as ‘classical’ products. This gives a competitive advantage to the large players in the market who have the resources to deliver such levels of technology, and in this respect they have a competitive edge over the lower tech producers in low cost markets. However, there are many users who still require only the basic products at lower cost, providing low cost in-house servicing and these occur in all markets regardless of their development. This ca also create a distortion in capex estimates because some of the service functions may be accounted for in opex in utility reports.

Power systems and utility automation can be described as power technology systems as opposed to products and they include both products and the value added to the products with additional services, technology or engineering. Sub-stations are within power systems. The increased competition engendered by market liberalisation in recent years has encouraged the development of sophisticated asset management tools and systems. Asset management monitoring systems and thermal imaging come have a natural fit with utility automation.

In targeting a market it is necessary to decide what the ‘addressable’ market is. Within the total T&D market, the addressable market for a low technology manufacturer of small transformers is different from the addressable market of a high voltage substation system manufacturer, although both include transformers. The manufacturer of 50 metre steel transmission line towers carrying heavy 750 kV lines would not regard the reticulation lines in a developing country which use wooden poles carrying low voltage lines as part of the addressable market.

There are many facets to the Energy Industry and GEC will help you put the pieces together.

Renewable Energy Records being Set and Broken in Europe

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On April 30, 2017, Germany was able to produce 85% of its energy demand using renewable sources. Germany deploys a wide arsenal of Wind, Solar, and Hydropower facilities in its efforts to become a fully renewable energy nation by 2030. As time goes on, we are likely to see days such as this past April 30 with near 100% renewable energy generation become more frequent.

After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, Germany pledged to accelerate the phasing out of its nuclear generation. As these policies began to take shape, it was looking like coal was going to be the successor to nuclear power in Germany. An unwelcome side-effect of the nuclear phase-out has thus been an increase in carbon-heavy electricity generation when renewables have not able to keep pace due to their external limiting factors.

However, when the stars do align, and conditions are favourable, Germany’s green pedigree is commendable. Attributed to the “Energiewende” policies, Germany is on track to becoming the leader in Europe when it comes to renewable energy production and consumption. We must not neglect to mention other European countries such as Denmark and Spain. These countries are right up there with Germany in producing high levels of renewable energy and at times showing electricity generation surpluses thanks to their renewable energy capabilities.

Key in these developments is scale. Without interconnections to neighbouring countries, generators in Germany, Denmark, and Spain would be heavily penalised for producing electricity that outstrips domestic demand. We cannot control the weather upon which many renewable sources are reliant. Creating a super grid will allow system operators to better take advantage of these moments of high renewable production by allowing them to offload surplus energy to other regions with peaking demand.

The future is looking bright for renewable energy in Europe, and we can expect more records to be shattered as time goes on.

Examples of environmental degradation from Hydropower

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The most obvious impact of hydro-electric dams is the flooding of vast areas of land, much of it previously forested, inhabited or used for agriculture. The size of reservoirs created can be extremely large. For example, the La Grande project in the James Bay region of Quebec, in Canada, has already submerged over 10,000 km2 of land. If future plans are carried out, the eventual area of flooding in Northern Quebec will be larger than the country of Switzerland. Reservoirs can be used for ensuring adequate water supplies, providing irrigation, and recreation, but in several cases they have flooded the homelands of peoples, whose livelihood and way of life has been destroyed. Many rare ecosystems are also threatened by hydro-electric development.

The Mekong in Southeast Asia is an example of the reduction in silt, where China has built dams on the river up-stream, causing severe disruption to the water sheds downstream, notably to the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. The Tonle Sap is one of the country’s major resources for food and water and has an importance to national economic life similar to the Nile in Egypt. There are about ten current major international disputes between countries at present and many smaller cases.

Another example of a hydroelectric power plant that had a negative effect on its environment is the ‘on-off’ Bakun Dam Project in Borneo, East Malaysia. The Malaysian government of Sarawak made plans to build a hydro-electric dam on the Rejang River. In the Bakun Dam Project, there were several key issues that were not addressed, namely the impact of the dam on downstream ecosystems and the lack of adequate data regarding the rate at which the reservoir would fill with sediment. With the trapping of river sediment, there would be a reduction in power production from the dam and the rate of erosion would increase, affecting the downstream riverbed, banks, and deltas. This disaster would harm the food chain of this environmental system. The indigenous Kenyah people, who have lived on the rivers and in the jungle for centuries, were economically impoverished and psychologically traumatised.

Energy Efficiency

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Energy Efficiency largely focuses on buildings since these consume approximately 40% of the world’s energy. To reach the European target of 20% energy use reduction by 2020, it is estimated that new buildings will need to consume 50% less energy compared to 1990. In addition, one tenth of existing buildings will need to lower their consumption by 30% every year.

A vast range of products are covered under the umbrella of energy efficiency. Manufacturers include a mix of start-up and small companies, large multinationals and a few companies somewhere in between.

It is expected that several start-ups will be acquired by larger companies to enter new markets or to complement their existing technologies to gain a larger market position. This trend has already begun; for example, Philips is a leader in the LED lighting market and has acquired several lighting start-ups over the years.

Not only do buildings contribute to the loss of energy, but at the point of generation, considerable work is also being undertaken on thermal efficiency. An example of this includes, among others, ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants. New state-of-the-art pulverised coal combustion plants are 20% more efficient than the average coal plant in operation. Ultra-supercritical coal plants under development are around 50% more efficient. Research and development (R&D) into improving the thermal efficiency of coal plants is underway in Japan, Germany and Denmark.

Not only are there developments in the coal sector, however. For example, Siemens has produced a new generation of gas turbine which has enabled Florida Power & Light to reduce its fuel consumption at two of its power plants by one third and CO2 emissions by more than one half. It is also estimated that this turbine will save the utility around USD 1 billion in operation, maintenance and investment costs over the turbine’s life cycle.

Unbundling of the water markets, competition and carriage

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In the 19th century, water companies laid competing pipelines in towns in Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. But it is usually efficient to have just one network of pipes and as a result of either free competition or municipal regulation, the competing networks of the 19th century soon turned into monopolies. Technically, the water supply system is a natural monopoly; the cheapest way to supply water involves just one firm owning a network of pipes. Water monopolies, of course, can and do exploit their privileged position. In the worst case, they may even be able to charge as much for water as the street vendors, in which case all the benefits of piped water accrue to the monopoly.

In some industries in which networks are important; gas, electricity, and telecommunications, governments have put limits on the natural monopoly by separating production from transmission through the network. Competing electricity generators, for example, can send power to consumers using one network.

In the water sector the problem is complicated by the absence of a national water grid. Nevertheless, the stages in delivery of water and sewage include a number which are contestable and where competition can be introduced, such as engineering services, metering, connecting new users and other activities.

In 1998 the UK government addressed this with the Competition Act, which took effect on 1 March, 2000. This covered areas in which competition is enforced by the regulator, including pricing, common carriage, contestable services, access to water resources, connections to water mains, laying of mains and anti-competitive agreements. Customers can appeal to the regulator against infringements of competition in these areas.

The water industries around the world vary greatly in their degree of concentration. The United States has 55,000 water companies and in Europe the average numbers of companies per million inhabitants ranges from 0.13 in France to 88 in Germany.

Historical Polish Wind Energy Government policy and initiatives

wind_turbines_montfort_wisconsinThe following is a look back at the market for wind energy in 2010 and describes the outlooks and targets set at the time.

In 2000 the government introduced a power purchase obligation for renewable energy sources which has been revised twice since its implementation. Energy suppliers must source 10.4% of its power from renewables in 2010 and 12.9% in 2017. Penalties for non-compliance The Ministry for Economy introduced new regulations at the end of last year to grant public aid for the construction or conversion of power grids and terminals to connect renewable energy generating units to the national grid and transmit electricity produced. Co-financing for the regulations will come from the Cohesion Fund with a budget of EUR 37.59 million. It is hoped that this will help projects overcome one of the biggest barriers to renewable development, insufficient grid capacity.

From January 2011 a new ‘Transmission Grid Code – Conditions for use, traffic management, operation and development planning’ was in force. This includes the removal of a requirement for connected projects or projects with an interconnection agreement to adapt their infrastructure to new grid requirements. On the negative side, this code requires wind farm owners to disclose information including intellectual property and in depth data to transmission system operators (TSO). The TSOs development plans cannot be shorter than five years. Consequently, TSOs may not be able to respond to rapid growth in renewable capacity.

are often not enforced.

An amendment to the Polish Law on Energy in 2005 requires renewable energy producers to obtain a license from the Energy Regulation Authority. A further amendment to this law in January 2010 included provisions for electricity trading, grid connection agreements and related charges along with new tools and rules to enable the Transmission System Operator (TSO) to secure electricity supply.

However, advanced payments on grid connection fees are required. Developers requiring a grid connection must prove that they can develop new wind capacity.

A further amendment to the Polish Law on Energy was anticipated in 2010, but did not occur.